Kennedy, James Shaw (DNB00)

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KENNEDY, Sir JAMES SHAW (1788–1865), general, belonged to a family called in local histories the Shaws of Dalton, Kirkcudbrightshire, by some identified with the Schaws of Sornbeg, Ayrshire, and connected by intermarriages with the ancient house of Kennedy claiming Scottish royal descent. John Shaw of Dalton about 1754 married Helen, sister and heiress of Alexander Kennedy of Kilhenzie, Maybole parish, Ayrshire, who, had he survived, would have been eleventh earl of Cassillis. Their eldest son, Captain John Shaw, described as of Dalton, although the place was sold in his infancy, served in the American war with the old 76th highlanders (disbanded in 1784). He married Wilhelmina Hannah Macadam of Waterhead, Kirkcudbrightshire, sister of the inventor of macadamised roads, and died in 1831. James Shaw (afterwards Shaw Kennedy), the second of the six children of this marriage, was born 13 Oct. 1788 at The Largs, Straiton parish, Ayrshire, whence the family soon after removed to an old castle on the skirts of the little town of Maybole. He was educated at the parish school of Maybole and the Ayr academy, and on 18 April 1805 was appointed ensign in the 43rd light infantry, which he joined at Hythe, Kent. The regiment, in which William Napier was then captain, was training under the eye of Sir John Moore. Shaw already adopted the methodical habit of professional study which he observed through life. He became a lieutenant in January 1806. He went with the regiment to Copenhagen in 1807, and to Spain in 1808, as part of the reinforcements under David Baird, which shared in the Corunna retreat. A violent fever, from which he never fully recovered, followed his return to England. He went back to Portugal with the first battalion of his regiment later in 1809, and was with it in the famous march of the light brigade from Lisbon to the field of Talavera, where he was made adjutant. At Campo Maior in the same year he became aide-de-camp to Major-general Robert Craufurd [q. v.] He was present in many affairs on the Coa and Agueda, including the interesting cavalry episode at Villa del Puerco (Autobiog. in Notes on Waterloo, pp. 5–6; also Napier, Hist. Penins. War, bk. xi. ch. iv.). With a brother aide-de-camp (afterwards colonel), William Campbell, C. B., half-pay 23rd fusiliers, he edited Craufurd's ‘Standing Orders for the Light Division,’ of which many editions have appeared. His private journal of the operations between the Coa and Agueda from January to July 1810 was printed in the original edition of Lord Frederick Fitzclarence's ‘Manual of Outpost Duties,’ pp. 232 et seq. (London, 1851, 8vo), but was afterwards omitted. A wound in the elbow-joint, received 24 July 1810 during the French investment of Almeida, disabled him for some time. He was again with Craufurd at the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo in January 1812, and carried Lord Wellington's summons to the French governor. At the assault on 19 Jan. 1812, when Craufurd placed himself on the crest of the glacis to direct the advance of the light division, Shaw stood beside him alone, and when the general received his death wound raised him and bore him out of action. After Craufurd's death Shaw rejoined the 43rd. He was present with it at the storming of Badajoz, where he displayed desperate gallantry in attempting to carry a minor breach beside the main one (Napier, Hist. Penins. War, bk. xvi. ch. v. p. 119); at the taking of the forts of Salamanca and subsequent operations; at the battle of Salamanca, and the capture of Madrid. He became captain in July 1812. He acted as aide-de-camp to Baron Charles Alten [q. v.] during the retreat from Burgos and Madrid to the frontiers of Portugal. At the end of 1812 Shaw went home on medical certificate, and had another prolonged attack of fever. He joined the senior department of the Royal Military College 2 April 1813, but was compelled by ill-health to leave it in August following. On Napoleon's return from Elba, Shaw joined Wellington's army in Belgium as deputy assistant quartermaster-general of the 3rd or light division, under command of Alten. At Quatre Bras (16 June 1815) his superior officer was disabled during the first ten minutes of the action, and Shaw was left the only officer of the quartermaster-general's staff with the division during that and the succeeding days. On the 17th Shaw reconnoitred the line of march for his division from Pyrmont and the Brye Road, crossing the Dyle at Waye, a movement separate from the rest of the army, and of great delicacy, as it was performed in the presence of the French advance from the field of Ligny (Notes on Waterloo, pp. 17–18). On 18 June Alten's division was posted between the Charleroi Road and La Haye Sainte. Enormous masses of cavalry and artillery having collected in its front, Shaw received Alten's permission to form the division in a novel order of battle, designed to render the transition from line to a formation to resist cavalry as swift as possible. The formation, carried out in the presence of Wellington, consisted of oblongs placed in two lines in exchequer. The oblongs, mostly formed on the two centre companies of battalions, had their faces and flanks four ranks deep; but to preserve the closest affinity to line-formation, each flank had the width of a subdivision only. The division took this formation about 4 P.M., and in it successfully withstood some of the most formidable attacks of cavalry masses on record (ib. pp. 98–102, 114–21). During the day Shaw called the duke's attention to a dangerous gap in the line of battle in rear of La Haye Sainte (ib. pp. 127–9). Shaw had one horse killed and another wounded under him. He received a brevet majority in July 1815. When the army broke up in Paris at the end of the year, Shaw was deputed by the Duke of Wellington to make arrangements with the French government for the retention of Calais. He was stationed at Calais as English commandant and military agent, with the rank of an assistant quartermaster-general, until the final withdrawal of the allies in November 1818. The presence of a French garrison caused many difficulties, which were successfully overcome by Shaw. The emperor of Russia presented him with a diamond ring for his services in embarking the Russian contingent of eight thousand men in October 1818. In 1819 Shaw was promoted to a brevet lieutenant-colonelcy on the special recommendation of Wellington. He had previously been placed on regimental half-pay on 25 March 1817.

In 1820 Shaw married at Ayr Mary Primrose Kennedy, sister, and ultimately heiress of David Kennedy of Kirkmichael, Ayrshire, and granddaughter of Sir John Whiteford, bart. He was appointed in 1826 assistant adjutant-general at Belfast, whence he was transferred later in the year to the northern district of England, and stationed at Manchester, where he remained nine years. He was called upon to provide for the suppression of various threatened outbreaks, due to the discontent of workmen when the laws against ‘combination’ were still existing and enforced, and his services were acknowledged by the home office as well as at the horse guards. On his departure the inhabitants of Manchester presented him with a valuable service of plate. A report, laying down general principles for preserving order during labour disputes, now fully recognised, although novel at the time, was addressed by him to the police commissioners. Sir Charles Napier called it ‘a masterly affair.’ Shaw assumed the additional name of Kennedy on succeeding through his wife to the estates and barony of Kirkmichael. His name first appears in the ‘Army List’ as ‘Shaw Kennedy’ in April 1834. He refused an offer from Sir Robert Peel of the post of first commissioner of the new police, being reluctant to quit his own profession. He accepted the post of inspector-general of the Irish constabulary in 1836. He raised and organised that force, consisting of eight thousand men, and introduced a system of drill and field exercise of his own devising. He held the command for two years, resigning at his own request in 1838, in which year he was made a C.B. He had become a brevet-colonel the year previous. From that time until 1852 he resided chiefly on his estate at Kirkmichael, leading a very retired domesticated life. He became a major-general in 1846, and in 1848 was summoned at short notice to take command at Liverpool during the chartist alarms. Later in the same year he was appointed, together with Lord Hardinge, an extra general officer on the Irish staff under Sir Edward Blakeney [q. v.] Ill-health prevented him from accepting this appointment and the government of Mauritius offered to him without solicitation the year after. In 1852 he accepted the command of the forces in North Britain, but his health becoming worse he had to resign it, and removed to Bath. He became a lieutenant-general and colonel 47th Lancashire foot in 1854, a full general in 1862, and K.C.B. in 1863.

Although an almost incessant sufferer, Kennedy's interest was in nowise withdrawn from passing events. From his sick room in 1859 he issued an able essay on national defence, entitled ‘Notes on the Defence of Great Britain and Ireland,’ which went through several editions within the year. His valuable ‘Notes on Waterloo’ were written in 1863, and, together with a brief autobiography written in 1860, and a ‘Plan for the Defence of Canada,’ drawn up in 1862, were published in 1865.

Kennedy died at Bath 30 May 1865, and was laid in the vault of Kirkmichael parish church. Lady Kennedy died in 1877, and was likewise buried at Kirkmichael. There were three children by the marriage: John Shaw Kennedy, the present laird of Kirkmichael (see Walford, County Families); Henrietta Shaw Kennedy, who married and predeceased the late Primrose W. Kennedy of Drumellan; and Wilhelmina Shaw, who died young.

In person Kennedy was tall and spare, with a singularly erect, active carriage, which he retained to the last. With a cold, distant, and reserved manner he united extreme kindliness and gentleness of disposition and great modesty. His habits were singularly abstemious. He was an intimate friend of the historian Napier, whom he regarded as ‘the greatest genius he had ever known personally’ (Bruce, i. 25); but, unlike Napier, held it to be a soldier's duty to keep clear of all political partisanship. He never voted at an election in his life. Sir Charles Napier summed him up as ‘one of Sir John Moore's men, distinguished in peace and war by great intrepidity, administrative talent, and commanding decision of character.’

[Information supplied by the courtesy of the Rev. D. S. Ramsay, Ayr, N.B., nephew of Sir James Shaw Kennedy; notes from the Register of Officers, First Department, Royal Military College, Sandhurst; Army Lists and London Gazettes under dates; Craufurd's General Craufurd and his Light Division (London, 1891); Napier's Hist. Peninsular War (revised edit.); Sir R. G. Levinge's Hist. Rec. 43rd Light Infantry; Shaw Kennedy's Notes on Waterloo (London, 1865); Wellington's Suppl. Desp. x. 535, 544, xi. 297, 388, 393, xii. 801; H. A. Bruce's Life of Sir Wm. Napier (London, 1864), i. 101, 222–3, 306, 314, 322–30, 346–8, 376, 410–11, ii. 321–5, and letters. An interesting memoir of Kennedy is given in Chambers's Eminent Scotsmen, but a few of the earlier details are incorrect.]

H. M. C.